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Ideas for That Leftover Space Under Your Stairs

What an odd-shaped space the area under your stairs is. You may have hit a mental wall trying to figure out your options for it. There are actually many possibilities that aren’t always obvious.

  • Shelves: You could definitely add storage and organized space by adding in shelves. Bookshelves, rolling, sliding, or pull-out shelves…They’re all great options, especially for those who have run out of other storage space, or for those who have run out of places to display shelved items.
  • Cubby Holes or Closet: Do you have more clothes and items than you have space for? A closet under your stairs would be perfect for you (and your excess coats, towels, and shoes).
  • Reading Nook: For those who love to curl up in a cozy little space with a good book, the area under the stairs bodes well for them. If you’re putting in a bench seat, could also add some storage in it by having drawers and/or shelves at the bottom. A window would be nice too, if your home’s architecture allows for it.
  • Half-Bath: If you have the funds and the space, adding in a half bath under your stairs can add both value and aesthetics to your home.
  • Office: What better way to make use of that extra space than to use it to be productive in? Especially if you aren’t already able to have a whole room in your house designated for using as an office, this option is useful.
  • Kids’ Play Area: Many kids love having a little space of their own to play in. You could either enclose the area and add a little door, or keep it open as a nook. Add some fun plush pillows for their comfort.
  • Pet Area: Keep it open as a nook to put a bed, bowls, etc. in, or enclose it with a gate window for a doghouse. You could even get really creative and make the space a cat playhouse.
  • Wine Storage Rack/Cellar: Having a wine cooler or cellar would add value to your home financially, and also in the aspect of enjoyment for wine enthusiasts. You could also install a bar or liquor cabinet if you don’t want to feel pressured to stick with wine.
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Your Checklist for Having House Guests

It’s that time of the year- the time for your family, friends, and loved ones to come together. Naturally, this might mean you’re going to have house guests. You might be really stressing out over getting things done in anticipation of their visit, but if you stick to this basic checklist, you’ll get these things done long before their arrival.

  1. Tidy: You don’t have to have a replica of Martha Stewart’s home, just be sure to pick up those straggling items and put them in their designated place. Wipe down surfaces, empty the trash cans, and put stray papers and mail out of sight. Also, vacuum or pick up those little pieces of trash and debris that might be laying around on the ground.
  2. Clean and Supply the Guest Bathroom: The bathroom is a bit more important to be clean for guests than other rooms. Would you want to be staying somewhere with a ring around the toilet bowl, and a dangerously low stock of toilet paper? Neither do your cherished guests! Spend a little bit more time cleaning the toilet, shower, sink, mirrors, and floor than you would in the guest bedroom. Also be sure to pour more soap in the dispenser, change out the towels and leave extra ones, leave a supply of toilet paper visible, and possibly air spray, shampoo, and lotion. If you want to go the extra mile, supply guests with an extra toothbrush and a bathrobe.
  3. Double-Check Guest Bedroom: Make sure the light bulbs in the guest bedroom are working. Extra credit: having candles, flowers, water bottles, power strips, snacks, and books.
  4. Compile and Situate Your House Information: Leave in their designated room the wifi password, a house key if they need one, emergency numbers, etc.
  5. Keep Well-Loved Breakfast Items in Plain Sight: Most people want their habitual fix in the morning, whether it be a certain type of coffee or what they eat. Find out ahead of time what their preferences are, and put them out in plain sight (and show them where they are) so that they don’t have to wait for you in the mornings.
  6. If Needed, Kid-proof: Secure medicines and household cleaners somewhere that kids wouldn’t have access to, move fragile and expensive items, buy outlet covers if there are young kids, etc.

The main thing is to picture yourself as the house guests, and in your mind, walk through the actions you would take. Remember, the main thing is to enjoy your house guests’ company!

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Tips & Tricks for Decorating a Small Living Room

You might have a small living room, but there are ways to work with what you’ve got and truly make the best out of the room.

Be a drama queen/king
Sometimes for small rooms that don’t get much light, it actually works to turn the negative situation into a positive one by painting the room a bold, dramatic color. This doesn’t necessarily mean four walls of scarlet red, but possibly a rich chocolate color or something of the like.

Go bold or go home
Statement pieces, such as bold patterns, colors, and flowers, all can make a small living room appear bigger than it actually is. A cheery, playful vibe can work wonders for a small space.

Experiment with scale
Lots of small things in a small space can visually “tighten” the room up. If you have small things instead of big ones, you’ll have room for more.

Hang artwork high
Playing with the height of your framed wall art can make a room seem taller, and therefore bigger

Mesmerize with mirrors
Mirrors can truly give an illusion of a bigger room, especially when they are on the larger side.

Hang high curtains
If you position your curtains almost to the ceiling of your room, it will give the room a vibe of airiness and of height.

Choose the right kind of table
Sometimes a traditional, bulky coffee table isn’t your best option. A circular, drum-shaped table can really present you with more space for traffic-flow than you would have, and will be easier to move when necessary.

Appreciate multi-use furniture
Seating with storage kills two birds with one stone. So does a desk that folds out into a dining room table, or something of the like.

Strategically position furniture
Instead of pushing furniture right up against the walls, “float” it more towards the center of the room instead, adding visual volume to your space.

Pick non-imposing furniture
Instead of bulky, high-sitting furniture, choose lower-sitting furniture that keep the room from feeling crowded.

Display the right light
Choose light fixtures that can be moved aside and don’t take up much room, like swinging-arm lamps. Having floor lamps instead of table lamps also let you kee
p your table room.

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How to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing This Winter

As temperatures drop, it becomes increasingly necessary to take preventative action in caring for your house‘s pipes. Some of your pipes are more prone to becoming frozen than others, including those situated in exterior walls, and those exposed in unheated parts of your home or outside. Here’s what you can do to avert frozen pipes, and to deal with them if the situation does arise.

  • Insulate Pipes: Remember all the spaces that could be affected by cold air including the crawlspace under your house, the attic, garage, under cabinets, and exterior walls. Wrap the pipes with secure snap-on foam insulation. Just remember that insulation does not prevent freezing, but simply slows the transfer rate of cold air. You can also use heater tape, which has a built-in thermostat, or a heated reflector lamp, in a dry enclosed space. 
  • Drain Water: from your swimming pool if you have one, and your sprinkler system lines. Remove, drain, and store garden hoses. Shut off inside valves that supply outside hose bibs, and open them to allow water to drain; keep them open so that any leftover water in the pipe can expand without breaking it.
  • Drip Your Faucets: Let lukewarm water continuously drip from your faucets that have exposed pipes to lessen their chance of freezing. 
  • Check For Under-Insulated Walls: If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen before, you can check for signs including mold, moisture-buildup, and water damage. 
  • Open Cabinet Doors: To let the warmer surrounding air reach the colder pipes inside cabinets.
  • Close Garage Door/s: To keep as much warm air inside as you can, if you have water supply lines there.
  • Laundry Room: If there’s no faucet in your laundry room, set the washing machine water temperature to warm, and start the cycle for a few minutes periodically to keep water running through the pipes.
  • Foundation: If your home has a crawlspace, make sure the foundation is completely enclosed, and fill in any gaps. Close off foundation vents under the house when it gets extremely cold.
  • If You’re Leaving Your House: for a trip, etc., set the thermostat at no less than 55 degrees. Also, shut off the main water supply and drain the system by flushing the toilets and opening all the faucets. 
  • Uh-Oh! Your Pipe/s Froze: If there’s only a small drip or trickle of water coming out of the faucet when you turn it on, then it may be frozen. First, locate the water main cut-off valve and turn it off. Then, open the pipe the faucet runs to, to allow water to flow through it and relieve any built-up pressure. Next, heat the frozen pipe using a heat lamp, hairdryer, space heater, towels soaked with hot water, or electric heat tape. After pipes have thawed, check for leaks by shutting off all the water to faucets and the ice-maker, and monitor the water meter for any hidden leaks.
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How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings

Let’s face it- you may have a couple of details in your house that aren’t as “trendy” or “modern” as some in other houses. And that’s okay! It’s nice to have the option of keeping your tried-and-true, well-lived-in home, or deciding to try something new. If you choose to go for the latter, one of the things that can sometimes date a house are those once-commonplace popcorn ceilings. Here is a step-by-step guide for how to remove them.

  1. If the popcorn was added before 1979, be sure to get it tested for asbestos before you proceed with the removal process.
  2. Remove all furniture, rugs, and decorations in the room which could potentially get popcorn dust and debris on them.
  3. If you don’t have a canvas drop cloth, put a plastic covering down on the floor, but be sure to create a few overlapped, taped layers. If you’re all for the extra protection of your room, you could hang plastic sheets from the crown moldings down to the floor to cover your walls. 
  4. Place a fan or two in the room to be sure and ventilate enough; don’t face it to the ceiling. 
  5. Use a gardener’s portable hand-sprayer, a.k.a a Hudson sprayer, to spray and soak into portions of the ceiling. Be sure to stick to portions of about 3-5 feet, as to not damage drywall underneath by spraying it with TOO much water.
  6. Wait about twenty minutes, and then start scraping the popcorn ceilings down with a ceiling texture scraper, or a putty knife. If it doesn’t come off easily, spray it with water some more.
  7. Once all of the popcorn is removed, buff and sand the entire ceiling down with a sanding pole and screen. 
  8. Optional: do a skim coat for best results, which is a topping compound applied to the entire ceiling with a drywall knife. Sand this down before the next step.
  9. Choose the best aesthetic for your ceiling: prime and paint it, add texture to it, put planks over it, tile it…there are so many options!
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Setting the Right Price to Sell Your Home

If you’re selling your house, one of the first steps you’ll take is setting an asking price; a maneuver that requires the ability to find the perfect balance between attracting solid offers and ultimately receiving the top dollar.

If you’re working with a realtor or other industry professional, you’ll probably hear talk of fair market value, which typically means the highest value an educated buyer will pay. Fair market value is usually not the asking price.

Many agents will begin by conducting a competitive market analysis of your house and give you an estimate of the fair market value of your home. The analysis takes into consideration comparable home sales, typically over the last year, taking into consideration similarities and differences between the other homes and yours. It will also consider the housing market in your area. If you’re in a hot sellers’ market like several communities throughout metro Atlanta, you’ll have the advantage.
As you work with your agent and set your price, you’ll want to ask yourself (and your agent):

1. What are the facts relative to my house for this market? Be careful when you consider pricing to focus on the factual data available versus emotional connections.

2. What are the market conditions for your specific neighborhood and community? Not all communities are created equal in this market. Not all neighborhoods within a community are created equal. It can be a complex equation to get your price just right.

3. How does my house stack up against the competition? This one is very tricky. It’s often helpful to take a step back and view your house as if you were an upcoming buyer. Your real estate professional can also help you evaluate this. Your agent, as well as friends, relatives, and neighbors, can assist you by pointing out your house’s advantages and disadvantages form a more objective viewpoint.

4. Am I being realistic? You absolutely want top dollar for your investment, but be careful to separate this from the emotional attachment you may have to your home. Also consider your motivation for selling your home.

Here are some other things to thoughtfully consider as you evaluate putting your house on the market:

Some upgrades and home improvements warrant being included in your asking price consideration. Kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations, and some others should be factored in. Some are lifestyle additions that you and your family enjoyed while you lived in the home. Also, the more personal the improvement-a swimming pool, a sunroom, purple floors- the less likely it will be viewed favorably by potential buyers. While you may be able to recoup some of your investment, it won’t give you 100% of what you paid. Your real estate agent can help you evaluate what return percentage you can expect on your home’s improvements.

Another common issue is that your home may have lessened in value since you purchased it, which is the case for many homeowners in today’s market. Some sellers want to recoup as much of their original investment as possible with housing sales trending upwards. This can be a slippery slope. Make sure you have objective, comparable and recent data-sold comps, pending sales and other data- to prove what the true market value is. Research shows that listing your house for as little as 1-3% above market value can actually reduce the buyer’s perceived bargaining power, causing your house to stay on the market longer.

Evaluate and be honest about your priorities. Are you more concerned with selling quickly or getting the most money possible? Unfortunately, this is a case where it is one or the other; rarely is it both. You’ll also want to contemplate your price and determine objectively whether you would pay that amount if you were a buyer.

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How to Make Your Bedroom More Organized

Let’s face it- everyone has that one area they let their things pile up in. For a lot of people, this area is probably in their bedrooms, where they figure people won’t see it. However, just because your guests‘ eyes won’t be on your room doesn’t mean yours won’t. You’ll feel more refreshed and centered with a tidier living space. That starts with making your bedroom more organized.

Cover up with curtains
There are so many options for the things you could divide off or conceal with curtains: bookshelves, closet racks, a bed, a sitting area.. Curtains allow you to sort of mentally organize and divide things that have different purposes. They also can make your bedroom appear bigger or more “fluid” if what you’re concealing is bulky or too intricate compared to what’s around it. 

Baskets, cubes, containers, etc.
For those things you’ll need on a nearly day-to-day basis such as extra blankets, pillows, books, and magazines, you make them more organized by placing them in their own designated container. These containers can fit into so many different nooks and crannies in your room, like under the bed or a table, at the foot of the bed, and more. There are also an incredible amount of options for these in stores, that will fit with any room aesthetic you could imagine.

Add some bookshelves
If you don’t have enough space anywhere else in your room, add some bookshelves. You can put different things in them other than books such as trinkets, art, and store extra blankets and pillows as well. 

Seating that can be used for things other than sitting in is a plus. Whether it’s at the foot of your bed, by the window, or wherever else, it allows you to enjoy your room more, and also lets you have a designated spot to temporarily place those “in transit” things you’ll put away. Bonus points for seating that has built-in storage, like a trunk or ottoman.

Think around your bed
Don’t forget to take advantage of those places around your bed, such as under or behind it, that can maximize your storage and organization space. Behind your bed you could add wardrobes, etc., which could also give you a headboard if you don’t have one. Next, if you don’t have built-in drawers under your bed, you could put boxes or storage bags there to be better organized. 


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Common Real Estate Misconceptions

If you’re buying or selling a house, you’ve probably heard some commonly held real estate misconceptions such as these:

The appraisal shows the home’s definite market value:
Almost always, the appraisal actually comes in under the market value.

You’ll need to put 20% down to buy:
This is a classic misconception; today, you can put as little as 3% down for a home depending on your credit, income, and statistics to support you.

The best time to buy is Spring:
Years ago when these supporting statistics were counted, the market was mostly full of families with children who needed to find a home based around the school year. Today, however, there are many buyers who aren’t families with kids. Winter is actually a great time to sell your home, because that’s when inventory is low.

If a buyer is interested in a house, they’ll put an offer in no matter what the asking price is:
Even though negotiations are a common occurrence in real estate, buyers will see them as a pain they’ll have to deal with. This could potentially prevent them from pursuing their interest in the home. If a house is initially priced unreasonably high, they’ll see it as something that will occur throughout the entire transaction.

Since everything’s online, you don’t really need an agent:
Yes, a lot of the information for available houses out there is online, but there are still some things that you should have an expert helping you with. The terms, contracts, and negotiations can be very confusing, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, etc. It helps to have someone who wants to help you, and will be an objective voice of reason when the going gets rough.

You’ll get the same exposure and service from every agent:
Not every agent is going to work for you in the same ways. You need a local agent with the right marketing system and tools which effectively get the job done. It’s also necessary that they can negotiate the highest possible price and have a commitment to excellence.

Open houses aren’t necessary to sell:
This goes along with the previous point; sellers figure that since everything is online, buyers can simply see everything they need to know from there. However, that is just not the case. Seeing pictures of the home in 2-D is much different than actually being there and seeing it in person. real estate misconceptions real estate misconceptions  real estate misconceptions 

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How To Make Your Home Warmer and Cozier

As temperatures drop, you may look forward to spending more time all bundled up inside your home becoming warmer and cozier. Be sure and get the most out of your pseudo-hibernation mode by using these things to improve your immunity, energy usage, and interior aesthetics.

  1. Change your HVAC filter every couple of months, and more frequently if you have pets, to prevent dander, dust, allergens, and bacteria from coursing through your home.
  2. Vacuum with your thermostat set to “fan on” so you can get rid of what’s kicked up into the air. Leave that setting on until about 15 minutes after you’re done vacuuming for maximum affect.
  3. Place some plants around your home for better air quality; some indoor plants are adept at decreasing dangerous vapors and dust.
  4. Change your traditional wood or gas fireplace to a gel fireplace insert. These are smoke-free, eco-friendly, and give off less allergens. These are generally priced pretty cheaply.
  5. Seal up air leaks, since these are one of the biggest usual household energy-wasters. Don’t forget the cracks and crevices that aren’t windows and doorways.
  6. Dust off light bulbs and fixtures to make your home appear brighter-allowing you to leave extra lights off.
  7. If you were thinking of re-painting a room/s, go for warmer colors to create a more cozy and warm vibe.
  8. Add an interior window to a room next to a sunny place.
  9. Clean your windows, letting more light into your house.
  10. Remove your window screens through winter time, since these let less light in by trapping dirt.

Be warmer and cozier than ever this winter!

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Biggest Interior Design Mistakes

Sometimes there are things in your house that seem insignificant and unnoticeable enough to change. However, as unimportant as these things may seem, they are each an element of design, each factoring into the equation of aesthetics. Here are some design mistakes that are easy to make in your home’s interior.

  1. Devoid of personality: It may feel good to have a very neat, tidy, organized house, but if it’s TOO spic and span, it could feel like a hotel. You want to make it seem lived-in and let your personality shine through. People want to feel welcome in your home, not extremely cordial.
  2. Too much clutter: As mentioned in #1, there’s a necessary balance to find between tidy and cluttered. Just as too devoid of personality is a no-go, so is having too much chaos and clutter. A few intentionally placed medium-to-large sized pieces will look best in each room. Unless you’re going for the flea market vibe, try and stay away from jumbles of small knick-knacks. Less is more.
  3. Too matchy-matchy: When it feels like you’re actually living in an Ikea, it may be time to rethink your design choices. Sure, it’s nice to have coordinated decor like furniture sets, but there’s a difference between cutting and pasting your room from a catalogue, and making it your own.
  4. Wrong-sized rugs: Try and find a rug that extends to at least the parameter of your furniture set. Many people accidentally get rugs that are too small, making them appear as if they’re floating.
  5. Curtain blunders: Having no curtains can make windows look too bald and under-dressed. Even a different type of curtain than the generic kind can make a good impact on the entire appearance of your room. That being said, curtains that are too short for the window can look bad. Try and find curtains that graze the floor or a tiny bit longer, and position the rods below the crown molding.
  6. Badly-placed art: Art should not be hung too high on your walls. Be sure and position it around eye-level, which is generally about 57 inches from the floor.
  7. Excessive open-faced shelves: If you have the option to go for shelves with doors, then do it. However, if you’re stuck with open shelves, then try and only display strategically placed, decorative things. Let your true clutter be rounded up into something that is contained and closed.
  8. Over-reliance on stainless steel: Feel out the mood and aesthetic your kitchen has without the appliances. The more rustic and cozy the vibe, the less likely it is stainless steel will make your kitchen appear better or more fitting. Especially when the cabinetry and elements surrounding the appliances are not as modern or flashy, the better it is to keep the natural flow going with something similar to what’s already there. For instance, a stainless steel fridge might feel a little out of place in a country farmhouse-esque kitchen.
  9. Generic switch-plate covers: If you’re styling a room to look a certain way, then don’t forget to change your basic switch-plate cover. It might seem like a minor detail, but it will go towards tying the whole room together. Design mistakes are sometimes easy to make, but keep in mind that they’re just as easy not to! design mistakes